Before and After: St. John's Catholic Newman Centre in Illinois

Recently the head chaplain of the St. John's Catholic Newman Center located at the University of Illinois reached out to LAJ to share a renovation project they undertook in collaboration with Daprato Rigali Studios of Chicago.   The project involved a two million dollar renovation of the interior of their chapel.  While they are still waiting on some aspects of the project to be completed, including a forthcoming refurbishment of the cupola, it is all the same worth taking a look even as things stand now.

The original chapel's high altar was regrettably lost as part of a renovation that took place in 1982 in the particularly turbulent years following the Second Vatican Council. In addition to the removal of the original high altar, the interior was effectively white-washed, being covered over in white and gray tones (a popular approach in the time, based on a rather stunted vision of "noble simplicity.")  

The historical chapel as it stood prior to 1982.

After the 1980's renovations -- the altar has been removed from its historical location and replaced by a sedilia in a Roman basilica style fashion

In the year 2001 a temporary "altar of reservation" was placed back in the sanctuary in addition to the freestanding altar that was installed in the 1980's.  That can be seen here, behind the freestanding altar:

One will see in this image that a frontal has been added to the 2001 era altar. The walls remain in their white-washed state. 

Now, in the present renovation, a new high altar (or "altar of reservation" if you prefer) has been installed which has been purposefully designed to be reminiscent of the original, historic high altar that would have graced this chapel. In addition to this, the white-washed walls have been re-painted in order to bring a much warmer and ornamental scheme back into the chapel as well as to add pattern and ornament -- which, as our readers will know, can be particularly important and impactful.

Daprato Rigali's watercolour of the project

The project to this point. The chairs are temporary until pews are placed back into the nave of the church.

A closer look at the new altar itself along with its reredos.

Here too is closer look at the newly installed painted work which shows medallions that include symbols of the Eagle (a symbol of St. John) as well as the coat of arms of St. John Henry Newman. Interspersed between these are found Marian fleur-de-lys. This particular photos will also give you a better look at the crucifix and statues of Our Lady, St. John and St. Mary Magdalen. 

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